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Michigan Republicans Ban Profiting from Fetal Tissue Sales, Which Is Already Illegal

Michelle D. Anderson

"These bills are a solution in search of a problem, a problem that is basically nonexistent," said Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). "So it seems like it was an ideological response to the issue but one that really has no basis in reality."

Michigan lawmakers finished 2016 by passing a redundant measure prohibiting abortion providers from financially benefitting from the sale or distribution of fetal remains—despite there being no evidence that this takes place.

Though the practice has long been outlawed on the federal level, it has been repeatedly raised as a problem in need of a solution by anti-choice lawmakers who cite a thoroughly debunked smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in 2015 reviewed practices in the state and found no evidence of illegal fetal tissue handling.

The state investigation was prompted by state Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), who sponsored the recently-signed SB 564 and had requested a formal investigation into the anti-choice myth that Planned Parenthood is profiting from fetal tissue sales.

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Although the practice is already illegal and state officials found no evidence of people benefitting from the sale of fetal tissue, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (R), standing in for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), signed the measure on December 28. Republicans in the Michigan House, with the help of a few Democrats, passed SB 564 in a 69-37 vote about two weeks earlier.

Right to Life of Michigan praised the decision, saying the new law closed a so-called loophole for nonexistent “fetal organ trafficking.”

Those found guilty of violating the state law could face up to five years in prison. Doctors working in hospitals and others involved in medical research are exempt from the law.

Pavlov introduced and sponsored the measure in October 2015, after the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) launched a deceptive smear campaign against Planned Parenthood.

The heavily edited CMP videos suggested the health-care organization was illegally trafficking in fetal tissue. Investigations in many states failed to show any wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood’s part.

Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) was among the Michigan Democrats who voted against the bill, according to

“These bills are a solution in search of a problem, a problem that is basically nonexistent,” Geiss said. “So it seems like it was an ideological response to the issue but one that really has no basis in reality.”

Ruth Lednicer, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, panned the legislation in a statement, saying the law was “duplicative” and designed for political gain, reported Michigan Radio.

“Instead of passing legislation that does nothing more than produce headlines, our legislature should instead be focused on the real work the State could be doing to reduce unintended pregnancies,” Lednicer said.

Michigan’s Republican-dominated legislature will begin its 2017 legislative session January 11.

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